Director: John Newland
Writer: Gene L. Coon
Cast: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, John Abbott, John Colicos, George Takei, Nichelle Nichols, Peter Brocco, Victor Lundin, David Hillary Hughes, Walt Davis, and George Sawaya
Composer: Alexander Courage
Air Date: 3/23/1967
Production #: 6149-27
With a galactic war raging between the Klingon Empire and the Federation, Kirk and Spock travel to Organia before their adversaries can use the planet as a base of operations. Despite their efforts to incite rebellion among the Organian people, Kirk and Spock ultimately fail to persuade the phlegmatic alien leader, Ayelborne (John Abbott), that a violent revolt against Klingon forces would be justified given the circumstances. However, just as tensions between the two armies are about to reach their climax, the Organians make a compelling case in support of their pacifistic outlook.
Though comparable to “Arena” both in premise and resolution, “Errand of Mercy” includes another insightful study on humanity’s propensity for violence and war. Star Trek enthusiasts will appreciate this episode for its thrilling introduction to the most ruthless antagonists featured in the original series, whereas fans of John Colicos should admire the late actor’s brilliantly sinister performance as the Klingon commander named Kor.
While neither as cunning as a Romulan nor strong as a Gorn, the character of Kor nevertheless presents a formidable challenge to Captain Kirk. Through rigid adherence to authoritarian and imperialist doctrines, the brutal Klingon commander repeatedly gains the upper hand over more ethically grounded Starfleet officers. Notably, Kor’s expansionist philosophy combined with his willingness to bully, torture, and murder conquered peoples into submission results in many striking allusions to the Nazi occupation of Eastern European countries during World War II. Although viewers have often criticized the prominent aesthetic differences between TOS and TNG era Klingons, Colicos should be commended for establishing the defining attributes of this infamous alien species through his embodiment of the aforementioned qualities.
By emphasizing the similarities between two seemingly antithetical cultures, “Errand of Mercy” contains a resonating commentary on mankind’s proclivity for self-righteousness when dealing with opposing forces. On one hand, Kirk pleads with the Organian council to accept Federation influence over Klingon domination, arguing that the former option offers a more benevolent alternative to the brutality of the latter. Even when faced with strong parallels between his adversaries and himself, the captain refuses to accept Kor’s assertion that humans and Klingons are more alike than either would readily admit. Only when the Organians present Kirk with irrefutable proof does he accept the humbling truth that his people are just as “unevolved” as the Klingons with regards to conflict resolution. Ironically, this powerful realization sets the stage for a lasting alliance between both civilizations in future Star Trek series.
“Errand of Mercy” stands out as a phenomenal effort thanks to many captivating action sequences and a wonderful twist ending. In addition to its strong characterizations and riveting central conflict, this episode effectively highlights the genesis of a conflict that would continue until the events of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, nearly twenty-five years later.
Overall Quality: 10/10
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